What would have been South African resident Ilana Sebastian’s return to cruising this week has turned into a nightmare.
The Cape Town resident, who works in the shore excursion department in a major cruise company, said the German travel bans imposed on South Africa made it challenging for the SA crew to return to work.
At present, around 12 South African crew cannot go back to work when the ship sets sail from Germany this weekend.
The German government has imposed a general ban on travel and entry with countries with the widespread occurrence of SARS-CoV2-variants, including South Africa, Eswatini and Lesotho.
According to the German Missions in South Africa, Lesotho and Eswatini website, transport companies may not transport any people from these countries to Germany.
“Entry for such travellers into Germany is not allowed under Art. 14 (1) / Art. 6 (1) lit e of the Schengen Borders Code,” it said.
Sebastian, 38, who hasn’t worked since February 2020 due to the pandemic, told IOL Travel that the embassy denied their visas. The German embassy cited in correspondence that “during the travel ban, we do not issue visa to crew members on crew ships.” (sic).
Sebastian has tried to obtain her visa since May 2021 but said the German embassy remains firm in their decision.
“Going back to cruising was meant to be my saving grace, especially since I have been out of work for so long. I tried to find work in South Africa during this time, but there were no jobs available.
“As a result, I had to tap into my savings to survive, and as it has run out, I have no other option than to go back. I am not sure what will happen if I do not get back to work,” she said.
Sebastian said the South African crew were praying for a miracle.
“The German ban on South Africa is costing us dearly. I do not see why they do not allow us into the country as we are vaccinated,” said Sebastian.
If the crew do not board the ship this weekend, they would have to sail to another port, which could cause more challenges.
“As much as they (the cruise company) want to help, it is up to the German government to make the final call,” added Sebastian.
The crew are not the only South Africans facing this dilemma. Other South Africans have had their work, studies and even relationships put on hold due to the travel ban.
Kelly Dido, who has been advocating for the ban to be lifted, wrote to the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa, Naledi Pandor, last week.
“SA is banned the longest and the harshest. As a nation with close ties to Germany, we remain overlooked. It’s been six months since the strict travel ban Germany has placed on South Africa. We are marked with the stigma of ‘The South African Virus Variant (Beta),’ although only discovered here – still proven to have been borne here, we remain helpless in our struggles as citizens of South Africa,” she wrote in her email.
“With India, the UK and Portugal, we saw that the involvements of their respective foreign ministries and government played a significant role in leading the German government to lift the ban on their countries. We strongly believe that the involvement of the South African government and foreign ministry in our case will yield the same result,” she added in her mail.
Dido remains optimistic that they will receive feedback this week.